AKA Arthur Wilton-Brown
Birthplace: Whitby, Yorkshire, England
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Musician, Religion
Executive summary: The God of Hellfire
Born in the seaside town of Whitby during a German air raid, Arthur Brown spent his childhood amidst the turmoil of the post-war reconstruction of England. Exposure to music arrived by way of his piano-playing father and his first performances took the form of singing duets with his brother in church, with participation in local jazz bands following close behind. While Brown's academic achievements earned him an opportunity to pursue a law degree at Kings College London, his interest in music soon took precedence; by the end of the first year he had been expelled, and after a brief time spent farming sewage he enrolled in Reading University to study philosophy and continue his musical training. During this period he formed the R&B combo Blues & Brown and made his recording debut on a flexi-disc for the Reading Rag Records with a group called The Diamonds. Membership in the The Southwest Five (later renamed Arthur Brown Union) and re-location to London came next, but, despite some (never-released) sessions recorded for Polydor and a residency at the Plughole Club, the band did not take long to disintegrate.
While fruitlessly shopping his flexi around London, Brown had a chance meeting with the engineer of the Reading sessions in a pub; within a couple weeks the two were in Paris, and his music career was finally underway. A highly theatrical approach to performance and prodigious drinking skills soon had Brown at the center of the Paris club scene, but the Mafia involvement of his patrons inevitably brought the situation down in ruins: at his final Paris show, his backing musicians torched the Mafia-run club for non-payment, and Arthur was left bandless and broke. A vocal contribution to the Roger Vadim flick La Curée (1966) raised enough money to allow him to return to England, where another period of odd-jobbing filled in the time until the singer met keyboardist Vincent Crane and created The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Even more outlandish theatrics and Arthur's flaming hat soon re-created in London the enthusiasm that had been generated in Paris. As a result, the interest of Pete Townshend and his Lambert & Stamp management team was aroused; through their unscrupulous manipulation a deal with Polydor was arranged in 1967, and the band's eponymous debut was on the racks by the middle of the following year.
Before the end of 1968 the single Fire had climbed high in the British, American and European charts, but typically Brown's success was derailed just as it began to take off: in the midst of a U.S. tour the drummer Drachen Theaker decided to quit (eventually replaced by a young Carl Palmer) and Vincent Crane suffered a nervous breakdown, forcing the keyboardist to return to England and leaving Brown to carry on the tour with substitute musicians. Two more U.S. tours were later undertaken, but during the second Crane's emotional instability once again caused him to leave the band. A second Crazy World album, Stangelands, was then recorded without Crane (who instead went on to form Atomic Rooster with Palmer), but was abandoned under pressure from management (it would later surface in 1988 on the Reckless label). Brown's problems reached critical mass when an incident of public nudity -- a common feature of his performances at the time -- during a tour of France put the singer in hot water with the French Communists; the band was forced to return to England as a consequence and ceased to exist soon afterwards. With his Crazy World in shambles, Arthur was able at last to rid himself of Lambert & Stamp's management "skills", although at the cost of losing most of his royalties from the first album.
Invited to record by the German division of Polydor, Brown founded a new band of a significantly different character in 1971. Kingdom Come recorded three albums between 1971 and 1973, creating a unique blend of electronics, art rock, R&B and toilet humor. The concoction proved too peculiar for most of the the record-buying public, and after the dissolution of the project in 1974 Brown embarked on a year-long break from the music scene to pursue the spiritual doctrines of G. I. Gurdjieff (although with one interruption to appear in the film production of The Who's Tommy). The hiatus was followed by his first solo album, Dance -- a return to his R&B roots that was greeted with mixed reviews. Outside of his continuing spiritual studies, he then pursued a well-received collaboration with German electronic musician Klaus Schulze between 1977 and 1980, followed by a largely-ignored reunion with Vincent Crane for the album Faster Than The Speed of Light (1980).
Early in 1980 Brown relocated his family to Austin, where he resumed his music career on a much smaller scale. During this time an opportunity materialized to record with Peter Gabriel, but the plan was abandoned before any sessions took place. The albums Speak No Tech and Requiem were subsequently released on small, independent labels, but the singer's attention by this time was primarily directed towards his family and his spiritual concerns: earning a master's degree in Counseling, studying with a Mexican shaman, and ultimately becoming a minister with The Church of Universal Life. Musical projects continued to sneak through, however: Brown, Black and Blue (1991) (a collaboration with drummer Jimmy Carl Black from the The Mothers of Invention, with whom Brown also ran a house painting business) and a U.S. incarnation of The Crazy World. In the mid-1990s Brown and fellow counselor Jim Maxwell co-founded Healing Songs Therapy, a unique service that culminates in Brown creating a song for each client about their emotional issues.
Father: Peter Brown (navigator)
Mother: Monica Wilton (food analyst)
Wife: Jeannette (div.)
Son: Julian (b. 1964)
Wife: Salima (legal assistant, m. 1976)
Son: Ali Brown
University: Kings College London
University: BS Philosophy, Reading University (1965)
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown Vocalist (1966-69)
Kingdom Come Vocalist (1971-73)
The Alan Parsons Project Vocalist (1975)
Klaus Schulze Vocalist (1977-80)
Expelled from School
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Club Paradise (11-Jul-1986) · Opposition Leader
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